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1.  CD8+ T-Cells Count in Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV Disease in a Predominantly Male Cohort 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:246870.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus- (HIV-) infected persons have a higher risk for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than HIV-uninfected persons. Earlier studies suggest that HIV viral load, CD4+ T-cell count, and antiretroviral therapy are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Whether CD8+ T-cell count is associated with CVD risk is not clear. We investigated the association between CD8+ T-cell count and incident AMI in a cohort of 73,398 people (of which 97.3% were men) enrolled in the U.S. Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC). Compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with high baseline CD8+ T-cell counts (>1065 cells/mm3) had increased AMI risk (adjusted HR = 1.82, P < 0.001, 95% CI: 1.46 to 2.28). There was evidence that the effect of CD8+ T-cell tertiles on AMI risk differed by CD4+ T-cell level: compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with CD4+ T-cell counts ≥200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with high CD8+ T-cell count, while those with CD4+ T-cell counts <200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with low CD8+ T-cell count. CD8+ T-cell counts may add additional AMI risk stratification information beyond that provided by CD4+ T-cell counts alone.
PMCID: PMC4320893
2.  Medical ICU Admission Diagnoses and Outcomes in Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Infected and Virus–Uninfected Veterans in the Combination Antiretroviral Era 
Critical care medicine  2013;41(6):1458-1467.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected (HIV+) patients on combination antiretroviral therapy are living longer but have increased risk for aging-associated disease which may lead to increasing critical care requirements. We compare medical ICU admission characteristics and outcomes among HIV infected and demographically similar uninfected patients (uninfected) and considered whether an index which combines routine clinical biomarkers (the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index) predicts 30-day medical ICU mortality.
Observational data analyses (Veterans Aging Cohort Study).
Eight Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide.
HIV infected and uninfected with a medical ICU admission between 2002 and 2010.
Measurements and Main Results
Medical ICU admission was determined using bedsection (Veterans Affairs) and revenue center codes (Medicare). For Veterans Affairs admissions, we used clinical data to calculate Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index scores and multivariable logistic regression to determine factors associated with 30-day mortality. Overall, 539 of 3,620 (15%) HIV infected and 375 of 3,639 (10%) uninfected had a medical ICU admission; 72% and 78%, respectively, were Veterans Affairs based. HIV+ patients were younger at admission (p < 0.0001). Although most HIV+ patients were on antiretroviral therapy (71%) with undetectable HIV-1 RNA (54%), compared with uninfected they were more commonly admitted with respiratory diagnoses or infections (21% vs. 12%), were more likely to require mechanical ventilation (17% vs. 9%; p = 0.001), and had a higher mortality rate (18.6% vs. 11.2%, p = 0.003). Cardiovascular diagnoses were less common among HIV infected (18% vs. 29%; p < 0.0001). In logistic regression (c-statistic 0.87), a 5-point increment in Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index was associated with an odds ratio of death of 1.22 (95% confidence interval 1.14–1.30) among HIV infected and of 1.50 (95% confidence interval 1.29–1.76) among uninfected; infection/sepsis and respiratory diagnoses were also associated with mortality.
Medical ICU admission was frequent, 30-day mortality higher, and mechanical ventilation more common in HIV infected compared with uninfected. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index calculated at medical ICU admission predicted 30-day mortality for HIV infected and uninfected. As more individuals age with HIV, their requirements for medical ICU care may be greater than demographically similar uninfected individuals.
PMCID: PMC4283206  PMID: 23507717
30-day mortality; comorbidity; human immunodeficiency virus; medical ICU; Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index
3.  Prehypertension, Hypertension, and the Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV-Infected and -Uninfected Veterans 
We found increased acute myocardial infarction risk among hypertensive and prehypertensive HIV-infected veterans compared to normotensive uninfected veterans, independent of confounding comorbidities.
Background. Compared to uninfected people, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected individuals may have an increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Currently, HIV-infected people are treated to the same blood pressure (BP) goals (<140/90 or <130/80 mm Hg) as their uninfected counterparts. Whether HIV-infected people with elevated BP have excess AMI risk compared to uninfected people is not known. This study examines whether the association between elevated BP and AMI risk differs by HIV status.
Methods. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS VC) consists of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans matched 1:2 on age, sex, race/ethnicity, and clinical site. For this analysis, we analyzed 81 026 people with available BP data from VACS VC, who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. BP was the average of the 3 routine outpatient clinical measurements performed closest to baseline (first clinical visit after April 2003). BP categories used in the analyses were based on criteria of the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Results. Over 5.9 years (median), 860 incident AMIs occurred. Low/high prehypertensive and untreated/treated hypertensive HIV-infected individuals had increased AMI risk compared to uninfected, untreated normotensive individuals (hazard ratio [HR], 1.60 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.07–2.39]; HR, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.22–2.68]; HR, 2.57 [95% CI, 1.76–3.76]; and HR, 2.76 [95% CI, 1.90–4.02], respectively).
Conclusions. HIV, prehypertensive BP, and hypertensive BP were associated with an increased risk of AMI in a cohort of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans. Future studies should prospectively investigate whether HIV interacts with BP to further increase AMI risk.
PMCID: PMC3864500  PMID: 24065316
blood pressure; prehypertension; HIV; myocardial infarction
4.  Hepatic Decompensation in Antiretroviral-Treated HIV/Hepatitis C-Coinfected Compared to Hepatitis C-Monoinfected Patients: A Cohort Study 
Annals of internal medicine  2014;160(6):369-379.
The incidence and determinants of hepatic decompensation have been incompletely examined among HIV/hepatitis C virus (HCV)-coinfected patients in the antiretroviral therapy (ART) era, and few studies have compared rates of outcomes to those of patients with chronic HCV alone.
To compare the incidence of hepatic decompensation between antiretroviral-treated HIV/HCV-coinfected and HCV-monoinfected patients, and evaluate factors associated with decompensation among coinfected patients on ART.
Retrospective cohort study.
Veterans Health Administration.
4,280 HIV/HCV-coinfected patients who initiated ART and 6,079 HCV-monoinfected patients receiving care between 1997 and 2010. All patients had detectable HCV RNA and were HCV treatment-naïve.
Incident hepatic decompensation, determined by diagnoses of ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or esophageal variceal hemorrhage.
The incidence of hepatic decompensation was greater among coinfected than monoinfected patients (at 10 years: 7.4% versus 4.8%; p<0.001). Compared to HCV-monoinfected patients, antiretroviral-treated HIV/HCV-coinfected patients had a higher rate of hepatic decompensation (hazard ratio [HR] accounting for competing risks, 1.56 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.31–1.86]). Coinfected patients who maintained HIV RNA levels <1,000 copies/mL still had higher rates of decompensation than HCV-monoinfected patients (HR, 1.44 [95% CI, 1.05–1.99]). Baseline advanced hepatic fibrosis (FIB-4 >3.25; HR, 5.45 [95% CI, 3.79–7.84]), baseline hemoglobin <10 g/dL (HR, 2.24 [CI, 1.20–4.20]), diabetes mellitus (HR, 1.88[95% CI, 1.38–2.56]), and non-black race (HR, 2.12 [95% CI, 1.65–2.72]) were each associated with higher rates of decompensation among coinfected patients on ART.
Observational study of predominantly male patients.
Despite ART, HIV/HCV-coinfected patients had higher rates of hepatic decompensation than HCV-monoinfected individuals. Rates of decompensation were higher for coinfected patients with advanced liver fibrosis, severe anemia, diabetes, and non-black race.
PMCID: PMC4254786  PMID: 24723077
hepatic decompensation; end-stage liver disease; HIV/HCV coinfection; HIV; hepatitis C
It is unknown whether smoking confers similar mortality risk in HIV-positive as in HIV-negative patients. We compared overall mortality stratified by HIV and smoking of 1,034 HIV-positive block-matched to 739 HIV-negative veterans, enrolled 2001–2002 in the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRR) for mortality were calculated using Poisson regression. Mortality was significantly increased in HIV-positive veterans according to both smoking status and pack-years in unadjusted and adjusted analyses (adjusted IRR 2.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.53–3.49 for HIV-positive current smokers and IRR 1.32, 95% CI 0.67–2.61 for HIV-negative current smokers). Comorbid diseases were also significantly increased according to smoking status and pack-years. Current smoking is associated with poor outcomes; even lower levels of exposure appear to be detrimental in HIV-infected veterans. These findings support the need for improvements in smoking cessation and for studies of mechanisms and diseases underlying increased mortality in smokers with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3118467  PMID: 19537953
6.  Risk factors for hospitalization and medical intensive care unit (MICU) admission among HIV infected Veterans 
With improved survival of HIV-infected persons on antiretroviral therapy and growing prevalence of non-AIDS diseases, we asked whether the VACS Index, a composite measure of HIV-associated and general organ dysfunction predictive of all-cause mortality, predicts hospitalization and medical intensive care unit (MICU) admission. We also asked whether AIDS and non-AIDS conditions increased risk after accounting for VACS Index score.
We analyzed data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a prospective study of HIV-infected Veterans receiving care between 2002–2008. Data were obtained from the electronic medical record, VA administrative databases and patient questionnaires, and were used to identify comorbidities and calculate baseline VACS Index scores. The primary outcome was first hospitalization within 2 years of VACS enrollment. We used multivariable Cox regression to determine risk factors associated with hospitalization and logistic regression to determine risk factors for MICU admission, given hospitalization.
1141/3410 (33.5%) patients were hospitalized within 2 years; 203/1141 (17.8%) included a MICU admission. Median VACS Index scores were 25 (no hospitalization), 34 (hospitalization only) and 51 (MICU). In adjusted analyses, a 5-point increment in VACS Index score was associated with 10% higher risk of hospitalization and MICU admission. In addition to VACS Index score, Hispanic ethnicity, current smoking, hazardous alcohol use, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes and prior AIDS-defining event predicted hospitalization. Among those hospitalized, VACS Index score, cardiac disease and prior cancer predicted MICU admission.
The VACS Index predicted hospitalization and MICU admission as did current smoking, hazardous alcohol use, and AIDS and certain non-AIDS diagnoses.
PMCID: PMC4182723  PMID: 23111572
HIV; hospitalization; medical intensive care unit (MICU); aging; VACS Index; comorbidity
7.  Unhealthy Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use are Associated with Decreased Quality of HIV Care 
HIV-infected patients with substance use experience suboptimal health outcomes, possibly to due to variations in care.
To assess the association between substance use and the quality of HIV care (QOC) received.
Research Design
Retrospective cohort study.
HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study.
We collected self-report substance use data and abstracted 9 HIV quality indicators (QIs) from medical records. Independent variables were unhealthy alcohol use (AUDIT-C score ≥4) and illicit drug use (self-report of stimulants, opioids, or injection drug use in past year). Main outcome was the percentage of QIs received, if eligible. We estimated associations between substance use and QOC using multivariable linear regression.
The majority of the 3,410 patients were male (97.4%) and Black (67.0%) with a mean age of 49.1 years (SD 8.8). Overall, 25.8% reported unhealthy alcohol use, 22% illicit drug use, and participants received 81.5% (SD=18.9) of QIs. The mean percentage of QIs received was lower for those with unhealthy alcohol use vs. not (59.3% vs. 70.0%, p<.001) and those using illicit drugs vs. not (57.8% vs. 70.7%, p<.001). In multivariable models, unhealthy alcohol use (adjusted β −2.74; 95% CI −4.23, −1.25) and illicit drug use (adjusted β −3.51 95% CI −4.99, −2.02) remained inversely associated with the percentage of QIs received.
Though the overall QOC for these HIV-infected Veteran patients was high, gaps persist for those with unhealthy alcohol and illicit drug use. Interventions that address substance use in HIV-infected patients may improve the QOC received.
PMCID: PMC3460799  PMID: 22820808
Alcohol; Quality of Health Care; HIV; Quality Indicators; Health Care; Opioid-Related Disorders
8.  Comorbid diabetes and the risk of progressive chronic kidney disease in HIV-infected adults: Data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
Approximately 15% of HIV-infected individuals have comorbid diabetes. Studies suggest that HIV and diabetes have an additive effect on chronic kidney (CKD) progression; however, this observation may be confounded by differences in traditional CKD risk factors.
We studied a national cohort of HIV-infected and matched HIV-uninfected individuals who received care through the Veterans Healthcare Administration. Subjects were divided into four groups based on baseline HIV and diabetes status, and the rate of progression to an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) < 45ml/min/1.73m2 was compared using Cox-proportional hazards modeling to adjust for CKD risk factors.
31,072 veterans with baseline eGFR ≥ 45ml/min/1.73m2 (10,626 with HIV only, 5,088 with diabetes only, and 1,796 with both) were followed for a median of 5 years. Mean baseline eGFR was 94ml/min/1.73m2, and 7% progressed to an eGFR < 45ml/min/1.73m2. Compared to those without HIV or diabetes, the relative rate of progression was increased in individuals with diabetes only [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 2.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.19–2.80], HIV only [HR 2.80, 95% CI 2.50–3.15], and both HIV and diabetes [HR 4.47, 95% CI 3.87–5.17].
Compared to patients with only HIV or diabetes, patients with both diagnoses are at significantly increased risk of progressive CKD even after adjusting for traditional CKD risk factors. Future studies should evaluate the relative contribution of complex comorbidities and accompanying polypharmacy to the risk of CKD in HIV-infected individuals, and prospectively investigate the use of cART, glycemic control, and adjunctive therapy to delay CKD progression.
PMCID: PMC3392432  PMID: 22592587
non-AIDS complications; HIV; chronic kidney disease; diabetes; risk factors
9.  Sex Disparities in Overall Burden of Disease Among HIV-Infected Individuals in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2013;28(Suppl 2):577-582.
Whether sex disparities exist in overall burden of disease among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system (VA) is unknown.
To determine whether sex differences exist in overall burden of disease after 1 year of combined antiretroviral therapy (ART) among HIV-infected individuals in VA.
Retrospective cohort study.
Among patients in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC), all ART-naïve HIV-infected Veterans who received VA-based HIV care between 1996 and 2009.
Overall burden of disease was measured using the VACS Index, an index that incorporates HIV (e.g. CD4 cell count) and non-HIV biomarkers (e.g. hemoglobin) and is highly predictive of all-cause mortality. Possible scores range from 0 to 164, although scores typically range from 0 to 50 for 80 % of patients in VACS-VC. A higher score indicates greater burden of disease (each additional five points indicates approximately 20 % increased 5-year mortality risk). ART adherence was measured using pharmacy data.
Complete data were available for 227 women and 8,073 men. At ART initiation, compared with men, women were younger and more likely to be Black, less likely to have liver dysfunction, but more likely to have lower hemoglobin levels. Median VACS Index scores changed from ART initiation to 1 year after ART initiation: women’s scores went from 41 to 28 for women (13 point improvement) and men’s from 42 to 27 for men (15 point improvement). In multivariable regression, women had 3.6 point worse scores than men after 1 year on ART (p = 0.002); this difference decreased to 3.2 points after adjusting for adherence (p = 0.004).
In VA, compared to men, women experienced less improvement in overall burden of disease after 1 year of HIV treatment. Further study is needed to elucidate the modifiable factors that may explain this disparity.
PMCID: PMC3695278  PMID: 23807068
women; Veterans; HIV; health care disparities; burden of illness
10.  Risk of Heart Failure With Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the Absence of Prior Diagnosis of Coronary Heart Disease 
Archives of internal medicine  2011;171(8):737-743.
Whether human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a risk factor for heart failure (HF) is not clear. The presence of coronary heart disease and alcohol consumption in this population may confound this association.
To determine whether HIV infection is a risk factor for incident HF, we conducted a population-based, retrospective cohort study of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected veterans enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC) and the 1999 Large Health Study of Veteran Enrollees (LHS) from January 1, 2000, to July 31, 2007.
There were 8486 participants (28.2% HIV-infected) enrolled in the VACS-VC who also participated in the 1999 LHS. During the median 7.3 years of follow-up, 286 incident HF events occurred. Age- and race/ethnicity–adjusted HF rates among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected veterans were 7.12 (95% confidence interval [CI],6.90-7.34) and 4.82 (95% CI, 4.72-4.91) per 1000 person-years, respectively. Compared with HIV-uninfected veterans, those who were HIV infected had an increased risk ofHF (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.81; 95% CI, 1.39-2.36). This association persisted among veterans who did not have a coronary heart disease event or a diagnosis related to alcohol abuse or dependence before the incident HF event (adjusted HR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.29-2.98). Compared with HIV-uninfected veterans, those who were HIV infected with a baseline Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) RNA level of 500 or more copies/mL had a higher risk of HF (adjusted HR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.57-3.32), while those with baseline and a recent HIV-1 RNA level less than 500 copies/mL did not (adjusted HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.64-1.89; P< .001 for comparison between high and low HIV-1 RNA groups).
Our data suggest that HIV infection is a risk factor for HF. Ongoing viral replication is associated with a higher risk of developing HF.
PMCID: PMC3687533  PMID: 21518940
11.  Validating Smoking Data From the Veteran’s Affairs Health Factors Dataset, an Electronic Data Source 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(12):1233-1239.
We assessed smoking data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical record (EMR) Health Factors dataset.
To assess the validity of the EMR Health Factors smoking data, we first created an algorithm to convert text entries into a 3-category smoking variable (never, former, and current). We compared this EMR smoking variable to 2 different sources of patient self-reported smoking survey data: (a) 6,816 HIV-infected and -uninfected participants in the 8-site Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS-8) and (b) a subset of 13,689 participants from the national VACS Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC), who also completed the 1999 Large Health Study (LHS) survey. Sensitivity, specificity, and kappa statistics were used to evaluate agreement of EMR Health Factors smoking data with self-report smoking data.
For the EMR Health Factors and VACS-8 comparison of current, former, and never smoking categories, the kappa statistic was .66. For EMR Health Factors and VACS-VC/LHS comparison of smoking, the kappa statistic was .61.
Based on kappa statistics, agreement between the EMR Health Factors and survey sources is substantial. Identification of current smokers nationally within the VHA can be used in future studies to track smoking status over time, to evaluate smoking interventions, and to adjust for smoking status in research. Our methodology may provide insights for other organizations seeking to use EMR data for accurate determination of smoking status.
PMCID: PMC3223583  PMID: 21911825
12.  Food Insecurity is Associated with Poor Virologic Response among HIV-Infected Patients Receiving Antiretroviral Medications 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2011;26(9):1012-1018.
Food insecurity negatively impacts HIV disease outcomes in international settings. No large scale U.S. studies have investigated the association between food insecurity and severity of HIV disease or the mechanism of this possible association. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of food insecurity on HIV disease outcomes in a large cohort of HIV-infected patients receiving antiretroviral medications.
This is a cross-sectional study.
Participants were HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study between 2002–2008 who were receiving antiretroviral medications.
Participants reporting “concern about having enough food for you or your family in the past 30 days” were defined as food insecure. Using multivariable logistic regression, we explored the association between food insecurity and both low CD4 counts (<200 cells/μL) and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (>500 copies/mL). We then performed mediation analysis to examine whether antiretroviral adherence or body mass index mediates the observed associations.
Among 2353 HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, 24% reported food insecurity. In adjusted analyses, food insecure participants were more likely to have an unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (AOR 1.37, 95% CI 1.09, 1.73) compared to food secure participants. Mediation analysis revealed that neither antiretroviral medication adherence nor body mass index contributes to the association between food insecurity and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA. Food insecurity was not independently associated with low CD4 counts.
Among HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, food insecurity is associated with unsuppressed viral load and may render treatment less effective. Longitudinal studies are needed to test the potential causal association between food insecurity, lack of virologic suppression, and additional HIV outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3157515  PMID: 21573882
food insecurity; HIV; patients; antiretrovirals
13.  Validity of Diagnostic Codes and Liver-Related Laboratory Abnormalities to Identify Hepatic Decompensation Events in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
The absence of validated methods to identify hepatic decompensation in cohort studies has prevented a full understanding of the natural history of chronic liver diseases and impact of medications on this outcome. We determined the ability of diagnostic codes and liver-related laboratory abnormalities to identify hepatic decompensation events within the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS).
Medical records of patients with hepatic decompensation codes and/or laboratory abnormalities of liver dysfunction (total bilirubin ≥5.0 gm/dL, albumin ≤2.0 gm/dL, international normalized ratio ≥1.7) recorded one year before through six months after VACS entry were reviewed to identify decompensation events (i.e., ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, variceal hemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, hepatocellular carcinoma) at VACS enrollment. Positive predictive values (PPVs) of diagnostic codes, laboratory abnormalities, and their combinations for confirmed outcomes were determined.
Among 137 patients with a hepatic decompensation code and 197 with a laboratory abnormality, the diagnosis was confirmed in 57 (PPV, 42%; 95% CI, 33% – 50%) and 56 (PPV, 28%; 95% CI, 22% – 35%), respectively. The combination of any code plus laboratory abnormality increased PPV (64%; 95% CI, 47% - 79%). One inpatient or ≥2 outpatient diagnostic codes for ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or variceal hemorrhage had high PPV (91%; 95% CI, 77% – 98%) for confirmed hepatic decompensation events.
An algorithm of 1 inpatient or ≥2 outpatient codes for ascites, peritonitis, or variceal hemorrhage has sufficiently high PPV for hepatic decompensation to enable its use for epidemiologic research in VACS. This algorithm may be applicable to other cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3131229  PMID: 21626605
hepatic decompensation; end-stage liver disease; epidemiologic methods; outcomes; validation studies
14.  HIV Infection and Risk for Incident Pulmonary Diseases in the Combination Antiretroviral Therapy Era 
Rationale: In aging HIV-infected populations comorbid diseases are important determinants of morbidity and mortality. Pulmonary diseases have not been systematically assessed in the combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) era.
Objectives: To determine the incidence of pulmonary diseases in HIV-infected persons compared with HIV-uninfected persons.
Methods: We analyzed data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort, consisting of 33,420 HIV-infected veterans and 66,840 age, sex, race and ethnicity, and site-matched HIV-uninfected veterans. Using Poisson regression, incidence rates and adjusted incidence rate ratios were calculated to determine the association of HIV with pulmonary disease. The Virtual Cohort was merged with the 1999 Veterans Large Health Survey to adjust for self-reported smoking in a nested sample (14%).
Measurements and Main Results: Incident chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as pulmonary infections, were significantly more likely among HIV-infected patients compared with uninfected patients in adjusted analyses, although rates of asthma did not differ by HIV status. Bacterial pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the two most common incident pulmonary diseases, whereas opportunistic pneumonias were less common. Absolute rates of most pulmonary diseases increased with age, although the relative differences between those with and without HIV infection were greatest in younger persons. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, as well as pulmonary infections, were less likely in those with lower HIV RNA levels and use of ART at baseline.
Conclusions: Pulmonary diseases among HIV-infected patients receiving care within the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in the combination ART era reflect a substantial burden of non–AIDS-defining and chronic conditions, many of which are associated with aging.
PMCID: PMC3266024  PMID: 20851926
HIV; respiratory tract diseases; lung diseases, obstructive; pneumonia; pneumonia, bacterial
16.  Cystatin C, Albuminuria, and 5-Year All-Cause Mortality in HIV-Infected Persons 
Compared with controls, HIV-infected persons have a greater prevalence of kidney disease as assessed by high levels of cystatin C and albuminuria, but not as assessed by creatinine level. However, the clinical importance of elevated cystatin C and albuminuria in the HIV-infected population has not been studied.
Study Design
We conducted an observational cohort study to determine the association of kidney disease (measured by albuminuria, cystatin C, and serum creatinine) with mortality.
Setting & Participants
922 HIV-infected persons enrolled in the FRAM (Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV infection) study.
Serum cystatin C and serum creatinine were used to estimate glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Albuminuria was defined as a positive urine dipstick (≥1+) or a urine albumin-creatinine ratio > 30 mg/g.
5-year mortality
At baseline, reduced kidney function (eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2) or albuminuria was present in 28% of participants. After five years of follow-up, mortality was 48% among those with both eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria, 23% in those with eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 alone, 20% in those with albuminuria alone, and 9% in those with neither condition. After multivariable adjustment for demographics, cardiovascular risk factors, HIV-related factors, and inflammatory markers, eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria were associated with nearly a twofold increase in mortality, whereas eGFRSCr <60 mL/min/1.73m2 did not appear to have any substantial association with mortality. Together, eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria accounted for 17% of the population-level attributable risk for mortality.
Vital status was unknown in 261 participants from the original cohort.
Kidney disease marked by albuminuria or increased cystatin C levels appears to be an important risk factor for mortality in HIV-infected individuals. A substantial proportion of this risk may be unrecognized because of the current reliance on serum creatinine to estimate kidney function in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3164880  PMID: 20709438
kidney disease; mortality; HIV infection
17.  Illicit drug use and HIV treatment outcomes in a US cohort 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(3):357-365.
To determine the prevalence of illicit drug use and the impact on HIV treatment.
Multivariable regression of cross-sectional data from 1163 HIV-infected and 294 controls from the Study of Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM).
An analysis of (1) prevalence of specific illicit drug use (ever, current), (2) being on HAART among those with an indication and (3) current HIV RNA and CD4 cell count among HAART users.
Median age was 42 years, approximately 50% were non-Caucasian and 33% were women. Eighty-six percent of HIV-infected and 67% of controls reported ever using illicit drugs (P <0.0001); 28% of HIV-infected and 16% of controls reported current use (P = 0.0001). In adjusted models, current cocaine use and past heroin use were associated with not currently being on HAART. Among HAART users, those reporting past heroin use were as likely to have an undetectable HIV viral load as those who had never used heroin. Current and past cocaine use and current heroin use was associated with lower odds of undetectable HIV RNA. Past amphetamine use was associated with having an undetectable HIV. Similar results were seen for CD4 lymphocyte counts.
Illicit drug use in the US is common, although far fewer report current use than past use. Among HIV-infected patients, understanding of the type of illicit drugs used and whether drug use was in the past or ongoing is important, because of their differential effects on HIV treatment outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3189479  PMID: 18195562
amphetamines; cocaine; heroin; HIV; street drugs; viral load
18.  Association of Upper Trunk and Visceral Adipose Tissue Volume With Insulin Resistance in Control and HIV-Infected Subjects in the FRAM Study 
Visceral obesity is associated with insulin resistance, but the association of other regional adipose depots with insulin resistance is not understood. In HIV infection, buffalo hump (upper trunk fat) is associated, but the association of upper trunk fat with insulin resistance has not been examined in controls. To determine the independent association of adipose depots other than visceral with insulin resistance, we performed a cross-sectional analysis of controls and HIV-infected subjects in the Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM) study, who had measurements of glucose, insulin, and adipose tissue volumes by whole-body magnetic resonance imaging. We studied 926 HIV-positive persons from 16 academic medical center clinics and trials units with demographic characteristics representative of US patients with HIV infection and 258 FRAM controls from the population-based Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. We measured visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) volume in the legs, arms, lower trunk (back and abdomen), and upper trunk (back and chest) and assessed their association with the homeostasis model of assessment (HOMA) and HOMA >4 by stepwise multivariable analysis. The prevalence of HOMA >4 as a marker of insulin resistance was 28% among controls compared with 37% among HIV-infected subjects (P = 0.005). Among controls, those in the highest tertile of upper trunk SAT volume had an odds ratio (OR) of 9.0 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.4 to 34; P = 0.001) for having HOMA >4 compared with the lowest tertile, whereas in HIV-positive subjects, the OR was lower (OR = 2.09, 95% CI: 1.36 to 3.19; P = 0.001). Among controls, the highest tertile of VAT volume had an OR of 12.1 (95% CI: 3.2 to 46; P = 0.0002) of having HOMA >4 compared with the lowest tertile, whereas in HIV-positive subjects, the OR was 3.12 (95% CI: 2.0 to 4.8; P < 0.0001). After adjusting for VAT and upper trunk SAT, the association of other SAT depots with HOMA >4 did not reach statistical significance. Thus, VAT and upper trunk SAT are independently associated with insulin resistance in controls and in HIV-infected persons.
PMCID: PMC3164883  PMID: 18167644
buffalo hump; fat distribution; insulin resistance; lipodystrophy; visceral obesity
19.  Decreased Serum Antibody Responses to Recombinant Pneumocystis Antigens in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Current Smokers▿  
Serologic studies can provide important insights into the epidemiology and transmission of Pneumocystis jirovecii. Exposure to P. jirovecii can be assessed by serum antibody responses to recombinant antigens from the major surface glycoprotein (MsgC), although factors that influence the magnitude of the antibody response are incompletely understood. We determined the magnitudes of antibody responses to P. jirovecii in comparison to adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in HIV-infected and uninfected patients and identified predictors associated with the magnitude of the response. We performed a cross-sectional analysis using serum samples and data from 153 HIV-positive and 92 HIV-negative subjects enrolled in a feasibility study of the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study (VACS 5). Antibodies were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Independent predictors of antibody responses were determined using multivariate Tobit regression models. The results showed that serum antibody responses to P. jirovecii MsgC fragments were significantly and independently decreased in current smokers. Antibodies to P. jirovecii also tended to be lower with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hazardous alcohol use, injection drug use, and HIV infection, although these results were not statistically significant. These results were specific to P. jirovecii and did not correlate with adenovirus. Antibody responses to RSV were in the inverse direction. Thus, current smoking was independently associated with decreased P. jirovecii antibody responses. Whether smoking exerts an immunosuppressive effect that affects the P. jirovecii antibody response, colonization, or subsequent risk for disease is unclear; prospective, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate these findings further.
PMCID: PMC3067379  PMID: 21191078
20.  Influence of Alternative Thresholds for Initiating HIV Treatment on Life Expectancy and Quality-Adjusted Life Expectancy: A Decision Model 
Annals of internal medicine  2008;148(3):178-185.
The optimal threshold for initiating HIV treatment is unclear.
To compare different thresholds for initiating HIV treatment.
We used our validated computer simulation to weigh important harms from earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (toxicity, side effects, and resistance accumulation) against important benefits (decreased HIV-related mortality).
Data Sources
Veterans Aging Cohort Study (5742 HIV-infected patients and 11 484 matched uninfected controls) and published reports.
Target Population
Individuals with newly diagnosed chronic HIV infection and varying viral loads (10 000, 30 000, 100 000, and 300 000 copies/mL) and ages (30, 40, and 50 years).
Time Horizon
Alternative thresholds for initiating antiretroviral therapy (CD4 counts of 200, 350, and 500 cells/mm3).
Outcome Measures
Life-years and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).
Results of Base-Case Analysis
Although the simulation was biased against earlier treatment initiation because it used an upper-bound assumption for therapy-related toxicity, earlier treatment increased life expectancy and QALYs at age 30 years regardless of viral load (life expectancies with CD4 initiation thresholds of 500, 350, and 200 cells/mm3 were 18.2 years, 17.6 years, and 17.2 years, respectively, for a viral load of 10 000 copies/mL and 17.3 years, 15.9 years, and 14.5 years, respectively, for a viral load of 300 000 copies/mL), and increased life expectancies at age 40 years if viral loads were greater than 30 000 copies/mL (life expectancies were 12.5 years, 12.0 years, and 11.4 years, respectively, for a viral load of 300 000 copies/mL).
Results of Sensitivity Analysis
Findings favoring early treatment were generally robust.
Results favoring later treatment may not be valid. The findings may not be generalizable to women.
This simulation suggests that earlier initiation of combination antiretroviral therapy is often favored compared with current recommendations.
PMCID: PMC3124094  PMID: 18252681
21.  Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) 
Medical care  2006;44(8 Suppl 2):S13-S24.
The Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) is a study of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected and uninfected patients seen in infectious disease and general medical clinics. VACS includes the earlier 3 and 5 site studies (VACS 3 and VACS 5) as well as the ongoing 8 site study.
We sought to provide background and context for analyses based upon VACS data, including study design and rationale as well as its basic protocol and the baseline characteristics of the enrolled sample.
Research Design
We undertook a prospectively consented multisite observational study of veterans in care with and without HIV infection.
Data were derived from patient and provider self report, telephone interviews, blood and DNA samples, focus groups, and full access to the national VA “paperless” electronic medical record system.
More than 7200 veterans have been enrolled in at least one of the studies. The 8 site study (VACS) has enrolled 2979 HIV-infected and 3019 HIV-uninfected age–race–site matched comparators and has achieved stratified enrollment targets for race/ethnicity and age and 99% of its total target enrollment as of October 30, 2005. Participants in VACS are similar to other veterans receiving care within the VA. VACS participants are older and more predominantly black than those reported by the Centers for Disease Control.
VACS has assembled a rich, in-depth, and representative sample of veterans in care with and without HIV infection to conduct longitudinal analyses of questions concerning the association between alcohol use and related comorbid and AIDS-defining conditions.
PMCID: PMC3049942  PMID: 16849964
HIV/AIDS; alcohol; aging veterans; data management/research design
22.  Do Benefits of Earlier Antiretroviral Treatment Initiation Outweigh Harms for Individuals at Risk for Poor Adherence? 
Clinicians may defer antiretroviral treatment for patients with suboptimal adherence. We used a validated computer simulation of HIV disease progression to compare alternative treatment thresholds for patients with suboptimal adherence. Earlier treatment increased life expectancy across a wide adherence range (50%–100% of doses taken). Delaying treatment for patients with suboptimal adherence may not always be appropriate.
PMCID: PMC3032571  PMID: 19210173
23.  Erectile Dysfunction Drug Receipt, Risky Sexual Behavior and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected Men 
Health care providers may be concerned that prescribing erectile dysfunction drugs (EDD) will contribute to risky sexual behavior.
To identify characteristics of men who received EDD prescriptions, determine whether EDD receipt is associated with risky sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and determine whether these relationships vary for certain sub-groups.
Cross-sectional study.
Two thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven sexually-active, HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected men recruited from eight Veterans Health Affairs outpatient clinics. Data were obtained from participant surveys, electronic medical records, and administrative pharmacy data.
EDD receipt was defined as two or more prescriptions for an EDD, risky sex as having unprotected sex with a partner of serodiscordant or unknown HIV status, and STDs, according to self-report.
Overall, 28% of men received EDD in the previous year. Eleven percent of men reported unprotected sex with a serodiscordant/unknown partner in the past year (HIV-infected 15%, HIV-uninfected 6%, P < 0.001). Compared to men who did not receive EDD, men who received EDD were equally likely to report risky sexual behavior (11% vs. 10%, p = 0.9) and STDs (7% vs 7%, p = 0.7). In multivariate analyses, EDD receipt was not significantly associated with risky sexual behavior or STDs in the entire sample or in subgroups of substance users or men who had sex with men.
EDD receipt was common but not associated with risky sexual behavior or STDs in this sample of HIV-infected and uninfected men. However, risky sexual behaviors persist in a minority of HIV-infected men, indicating ongoing need for prevention interventions.
PMCID: PMC2837496  PMID: 19921112
HIV infection; risky sexual behavior; STDs; men; phosphodiesterase inhibitors
24.  Continuous antiretroviral therapy decreases bone mineral density 
AIDS (London, England)  2009;23(12):1519-1529.
To assess the effects of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on bone mineral density (BMD)
Randomized comparison of continuous ART (viral suppression group; VS) with intermittent ART (drug conservation group; DC)
Outpatient clinics in the United States, Australia, and Spain.
Participants in the Strategies for Management of Antiretroviral Therapy Body Composition substudy.
Main outcome measures
Annual hip and spine BMD by dual-energy radiographic absorptiometry (DXA) and spine BMD by quantitative computed tomography (qCT).
Comparisons were by intention-to-treat analysis, using longitudinal models for change in BMD. Risk factors for BMD loss were evaluated.
The 214 participants (median 44 years, 19% female participants, 73% on ART; median T-scores −0.5 total hip, −0.7 spine DXA, −0.9 spine qCT; 98 randomized to VS and 116 to DC) were followed for a mean 2.4 years. With continuous ART, BMD declined per year by 0.8% (hip), 0.4% (spine DXA), and 2.4% (spine qCT). BMD declined significantly less with intermittent ART. Estimated DC minus VS group differences in mean BMD change through follow-up were 1.4% [hip; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.6–2.3; P=0.002], 1.3% (spine DXA; 95% CI 0.1–2.4, P=0.03), and 3.0% (spine qCT; 95% CI 0.8–5.2, P=0.007). No consistent drug-specific association with BMD decline was found. In the parent study, 10 of 2753 participants in the VS group and two of 2720 in the DC group reported serious fractures (hazard ratio 4.9; 95% CI 1.1–22.5; P=0.04).
Continuous ART is associated with decline in BMD and possibly more fractures relative to intermittent, CD4 cell count-guided ART.
PMCID: PMC2748675  PMID: 19531929
antiretroviral therapy; bone mineral density; fracture; HIV; osteoporosis
25.  The Effect of Individual Antiretroviral Drugs on Body Composition in HIV-Infected Persons Initiating Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy 
To examine the long-term effects of individual antiretroviral drugs on body composition among 416 persons initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART).
In a substudy of a clinical trial of persons initiating ART, changes in body composition attributable to individual ART were examined. ART assessed were: indinavir, ritonavir, nelfinavir, efavirenz, nevirapine, stavudine (d4T), zidovudine (ZDV), lamivudine (3TC), didanosine (ddI), and abacavir (ABC). Skinfolds and circumferences were measured at baseline and every 4 months. Mid-arm, mid-thigh and waist subcutaneous tissue areas (STAs) and non-subcutaneous tissue areas (NSTAs) were calculated. Rates of change per year of exposure to each individual ART drug were determined using multivariate longitudinal regression.
D4T and ZDV use were associated with losses in STA and skinfold thickness. 3TC use was associated with gains in all STAs and skinfold thickness, while ABC use was associated with an increase in waist STA. Indinavir was associated with gains in waist STA, while indinavir, efavirenz and nevirapine were associated with increases in upper back skinfolds. D4T use was also associated with increases in all NSTAs; 3TC use was associated with the greatest increase in waist NSTA.
In this prospective non-randomized evaluation, the NRTIs d4T and ZDV were associated with decreases in STAs, while 3TC use was associated with increased STAs and waist NSTA.
PMCID: PMC2745266  PMID: 19412117

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